The search for a home

By Etienne Bruce. 

‘Dépaysement’ means a sense of disorientation or a change of scenery – a feeling of not being in one’s home country. The word forms the title of an on-going piece of work I am making in Calais, a city that has undergone a sense of dépaysement on many levels.

Since the Kosovo war, Calais has become a refuge for thousands of people fleeing hardship, a pause in a continuing search for home. The signing of the Treaty of le Touquet saw the movement of Britain’s border to French soil. The British government invested 15 million euros to build fences along the coastline, and in 2015, 250 acres of trees were razed to the ground to remove cover for undocumented migrants aImages of disorientation and loss at the Calais refugee camp and to facilitate video surveillance. Responses to migration here have impacted the city itself, its inhabitants and its environment.

The perspective from outside of the camp – dominant media reportage conducive to fear and hostility, as well as the physical manifestation of this in the form of the securitisation of the area – represents a manufacturing of fear based on political interests. During demolition of the camp, graffiti scrawled on shelters proclaimed ‘lieu de vie’ (place of life), underlining the sense of human life caught in political crossfire. Graffiti was everywhere in the camp, with its association of revolution and political expression, not abiding by a hierarchy. As such, it’s defiant against divisions that are constantly created and was in opposition to what the fences represented.

Since demolition, the camp’s presence remains – absolutely (people who were living there have not disappeared from the area), and abstractly. Strikingly, both the longstanding and recent residents experience a similar but distinct phenomenon of being victim to circumstance and representation. This shared sense of dépaysement is what I seek to document in my development of this work.

Images by Etienne Bruce.